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Cultural Diversity

Interestingly, it seems that change has brought much more acceptance of difference; people are more tolerant of one another, but they trust one another less. The explanations for this reinforce the importance of the role of schools. Changes in family structure, breakdown in close-knit communities, longer journeys for both work and play and the impact of the digital age have all reduced young people’s involvement in groups and teams and have changed the method of social networking away from face-to-face contact. In this world, schools are important and critical places to practice the social skills required for face- to-face contact and experience the relationships of trust and tolerance that this involves.

People matter

Research into the role of social capital – defined as social networks and interactions between people - concludes that connections and relationships matter. As other big changes impact upon young people, schools, for the most part, are successful in reinforcing associations and networks, both seen as crucial for individual health and well- being. Evidence on the growth of the extended school and informal education shows the importance of people joining groups. Individual achievement is likely to rise significantly and the quality of day-to-day interaction is enhanced by a much greater emphasis on the cultivation of extra-curricular activity involving groups and teams. So generally speaking, schools are doing well in managing cultural diversity in pretty difficult circumstances. But what would a school report say about performance in this area? Could do better?

If that is the case, then any improvement would need to be benchmarked against a universally accepted model of ‘good performance’ which outlined the expected contribution of schools. Just how accommodating should schools be to difference and how best should we prepare young people for the constant change of future diverse societies?

Room for improvement

There is no doubt that schools in the UK take these issues seriously, but perhaps not consistently, across the sector. Most recognise that appreciation of difference is key, but many differ in how to grow it. The protection of heritage and languages of newcomers, and the extent and ways of encouraging young people to explore cultures, varies widely. Most argue that confidence and confidence-building is important, but not all see the use of the school as a public space where difficult and controversial conversations should be encouraged.

Our commitment to citizenship education - and to the development of a shared values approach to a democracy characterised by participation, pluralism and transparency, introduced to the English National Curriculum from 2002, with the requirement for all children to learn about human rights, responsibilities and the democratic process and to be involved in projects of active citizenship to the benefit of their local communities – may now be at risk as the national government reverts to a narrower and less practical curriculum.

recia Herrera, Head of t-MBA International Relations at Doğa Schools discusses how the international private school handles the variety of backgrounds amongst its students Doğa Schools started in 2002 with 200 students; today Doğa has over 85 campuses in Turkey and Cyprus and over 50,000 students with a goal to reach over 100,000 students in the near future. With a high number of students comes a great deal of responsibility in dealing with the wide cultural backgrounds that the students have. Since its inception, Doğa has always looked out for the best interest of its students. Therefore, its main focus has been on creating educational concepts such as the Nature Based Learning and t- MBA programmes, where students of a diverse cultural background can find common ground. With these concepts, Doğa Schools has challenged the classical learning methods and and remains innovative by developing learning through experiences.

This is how we do it! G

We found that by creating a common theme beetween them, the students have engaged more. In the t-MBA, which is an adaptation of a university MBA to high school level, for example, students have a high involvement in projects and activities and gain a sense of responsibility, which in turn has a positive impact on their self-esteem. Through the projects, students work together on a topic of their interest (business, social, maths etc.) and learn to see the enrichment that diversity brings to a project.

The t-MBA Summit Week for example, is a whole week event that is organized and carried out by the t-MBA students council. It is composed of many activities such as a t-MBA entrepreneurship project competition, a t-MBA world contest, a t-MBA community day, international university lectures, workshops and teacher training sessions. During this week students from around the world come and share, plan, prepare and execute their ideas and projects with all Doğa Schools. This allows for an even wider cultural exchange amongst the Doğa Students and also for students to learn to work together. In a nutshell, Doğa has found that the best way to deal with the high number of students from diverse backgrounds is to create a healthy and happy environment. In this way we create educational models that facilitate the sharing of students’ cultures and talents to reach success and learn to work together.

May 2013 19

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